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Faculty of Biosciences > Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology >Birds and Berries Page > Workshop

Workshop: Birds and Berries and Plant Secondary Metabolites:
Frugivory, Detoxification and Utilisation

8. to 10. January 2003 in the "Internationales Wissenschaftsforum der Universitšt Heidelberg"
Plants defend themselves against herbivores and micro-organisms with an enormous diversity of secondary metabolites (SM). Herbivorous animals have met SM in food for millions of years and are adapted to cope with substances generally found in their diet. However, whenever possible animals avoid to feed on "toxic" plants. But, in the case of pollination and seed dispersal a plant needs to attract herbivores to get a service from the animal. Attractive fruit pulp or nectars are means in this context.
Hence, in this light it is puzzling why some fruits contain SM toxic to animals. Different hypotheses are recently under debate. Birds using different diets are involved in many mutualistic interactions with plants (seed dispersal or pollination). Different degrees of coevolutionary development and reciprocal dependence are known in ornithology and plant ecology. However, the ability of birds to cope with dietary SM is insufficiently studied.

Feeding Blackbird on Snowball
The occurrence of SM in plants and the pharmacological effects and detoxification of SM is a central theme in pharmacology and toxicology. Thus, interdisciplinary work will help to understand bird-plant interactions on biochemical and ecological levels. The Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology in Heidelberg has therefore organised a workshop.

Aims and Scopes:
The workshop brought together experts with interests in plant secondary metabolism, frugivory, seed dispersal and ornithology as well as pharmacology and toxicology to discuss open questions in bird-plant interactions and the function of SM.

The meeting took place from 8. to 10. January 2003 in the "Internationales Wissenschaftsforum der Universitšt Heidelberg". Reviews and short lectures promoted intensive discussions. The meeting also gave us a good opportunity of creating a network of researchers to enhance the knowledge in evolution of bird-plant interactions.

Contact: Jens Schabacker and Michael Wink
responsible: Director
last update: 08.02.2003